Sleeper RPG: Orphans of the Cold War

Header-CroppedToday we’re going to talk about Sleeper RPG: Orphans of the Cold War, from Death Spiral Games.  Sleeper is a high action RPG that takes all kinds of ideas from across the sci-fi, conspiracy, espionage, survival horror and action genres and mashes them together.

Before I talk about the actual game itself I would like to talk about how it came to be.  Death Spiral games came to Kickstarter with a basically finished game and were looking for funding to get it printed; they were very clear about what had been completed, what was going to be completed and when they expected to publish the game. After successfully funding and to my total surprise the people running this Kickstarter not only managed to deliver the game but they managed to deliver it on time and to a high standard of quality.

At the moment I am talking about only the electronic version of the game as my physical copy hasn’t arrived yet due to the courier company being rubbish, this should in no way reflect on Death Spiral Games however as they have been nothing but excellent through out the entire process.  The whole process has come as a breath of fresh air as out of the three RPG Kickstarters I have backed over the past 2 years this is the only one to actually deliver anything.

So, lets have a look at the background of the game.  The following text is taken from the Death Spiral Website.

Sleeper is a roleplaying game of Cold War relics and secret wars. It pits your character’s superhuman powers and elite training against the deadliest relics of the Cold War. The game combines military action, ultramodern gear, science fiction horror and the secret history of the twentieth century in deadly and thrilling battle for the survival of the world. During the darkest days of that conflict, the superpowers came to believe that nuclear war was a likely event. So they took their biggest secrets – the artificially enhanced agents and soldiers, possessing superhuman powers and the highest levels of training – and buried them in secret facilities from which they would wake when nuclear war had finished. These sleepers would then help found the post-nuclear world according to the principles of the regimes that created them.

Sounds cool doesn’t it.

You get to play a Cold War era super agent with cool powers who was Cryogenically frozen with the idea that you would wake up after the inevitable nuclear war to help rebuild the world according to your governments ideology.

The basic idea seems to be that you will work for Obsidian, which is a covert agency that was created by the first two Sleepers to awake and exists to help recover Sleepers and help them to adjust to the world as it is now.  It also exists to counter the threats caused by other, less stable, sleepers.  Of course, not just agents were frozen, caches of weapons, technologies and a equipment were all also hidden in caches all over the world.

Here are the factions that created Sleeper agents along with a brief description.

MKJESTER (CIA)

US programme which grew out of MKULTRA (the famous CIA run attempt at developing workable mind control), MKJESTER agents gain their powers through drug therapy, mental conditioning, surgical implantation of bioengineered organs and chemical therapies. The original intent of this project was to create soldiers/agents capable of mind control and telepathy so the most common powers exhibited by MKJESTER agents are mental in nature.

GREY DUST (British Intelligence)

GREY DUST is the British programme that was founded after a UFO crashed into the North Sea in 1959, GREY DUST is all about the reverse engineering of alien technologies and biology.  The implants derived from this research give GREY DUST agents the broadest range of powers.

NECTAR V (NATO Allies)

Pronounced Nectar Five this programme was run by various of the allied powers in Europe who grabbed themselves a slice of the post WWII Nazi Technology Pie.  Basically a bio-warfare programme that was run co-operatively by the French, Belgians and West Germans.  NECTAR V agents are generally the most extremely altered as they were originally supposed to be disposable weapons, their powers come from physical mutations and extra organs.

LAST LIGHT (KGB)

The surprisingly un-sinister name of this programme belies both its nature and results.  Started by the KGB in the late 50’s and run throughout the cold war, LAST LIGHT grew out of the soviet nuclear programme, using captured scientists as a form of forced labour LAST LIGHT focused on exposing subjects to a variety of exotic radiation sources in order to see what happened.  In most cases the subject became ill and died, however some survived and developed amazing abilities related to energy projection and creation as well numerous physical mutations.

There are a number of other factions but they are NPC organisations focused mostly on providing some opponents.

Now we’re going to have a look at character creation.

Step 1: Origin

Choose which faction you were created by.  For the sake of this example I’m going to choose LAST LIGHT, I love the idea of the KGB randomly irradiating people to see if they get super powers.

Step 2: Choose Power

Right, there is a big list of powers you can pick from and it gives the typical powers associated with a given programme.

The power list is:

Autonomous Armour, Bioartillery, Create Matter, Entrail Burst, Mental Erosion, Mind Control, Mind Shroud, Radiation Blast, Regeneration, Spatial Distortion, Teleportation & Vampirism.

Of those, the most common LAST LIGHT powers are:

Spatial Distortion: Create camouflage fields or phase out solid matter.
Teleportation: Short range instant teleport.
Radiation Blast: Cause damage and EMP electronics.

I’m going to take Spatial Distortion as my power.  It seems cool and I have a nice idea for an ice cold Russian sniper with the ability to hide in plain sight and shoot through walls.

Step 3: Distribute Attributes.

Every starting character has an array of number to split between the attributes.  The array is 4, 3, 3, 3, 2; 4 is exceptional, 3 is above average and 2 is average.

The attributes are:

Athletics (Run, Jump, Climb Trees, etc, also H2H Combat).
Physique (Resistance to Injury, Stamina, Resistance to debilitating effects).
Nerve (Coolness under fire, courage).
Focus (Ability to concentrate and use your powers).
Shooting (Competence with Firearms, all firearms).

The way the system works is you roll 1D10 + Attribute, if you have a specialism (covered next) you roll 1D12 instead.  The result is compared to the difficulty, which ranges from 6 (Easy) to 12 (Very Hard).

I’m going to spend my points thus.

Athletics:     3
Physique:    2
Nerve:        3
Focus:        3
Shooting:    4

This gives me a great shooting ability (important for a sniper) and puts my average ability as physique (I don’t intend to be in melee often/at all).

Step 4: Specialism Choice

You now get 4 specialisms to spend, these are areas that you are especially kick ass at.  There are a few, I’m not going to list them all but they split out the attributes nicely.

I’m going to pick the following:

Stealth & Mobility from Athletics.
Spotting from Nerve.
Sniper Rifle from Shooting.

Step 5: Derived Stats

These are your defences, carry capcity and hit points.  Mine work out as:

Melee Defence: 9
Resilience Defence: 8
Stealth Defence: 10
Willpower Defence: 9
Maximum Carry: 16
Maximum Wounds: 5

Step 6: Equipment Selection

This is done in quite a cool way, you get to equip your character with any relevant equipment, however all equipment has a ‘bulk’ rating, your total bulk value of equipment cannot exceed your carrying capacity.

Congratulations Death Spiral Games you have designed an encumbrance system that doesn’t make me want to throw the book out of a window.

The recommendation is that you pick a primary weapon, a sidearm and some armour.  You also have to spend 2 bulk worth of space on gear other than weapons, ammo and other combat items.  This is to represent that you are expected to be ready to adapt in the field.  You also get a set of basic equipment that doesn’t consume space, things like clothes, ID, Smart Device.

I’m going to take the following:

AI Arctic Warfare Sniper Rifle: Damage 2D12, Range 14/8/3, RF 0, JM 3, BK 8, Bipod (20), High Crit.
Glock 17 Handgun: Damage 2D6, Range 5/1/1, RF 1, JM 6, BK 1, 1H
Ballistic Vest: 3/3 Body Armour, BK 1.

So far I have used 10 Bulk worth of space and have 6 more available.  Lets pick some additional equipment.

Binoculars (+2 to relevant checks, BK 1)
Snap Gun Lock Pick (Automatically opens standard locks, BK 1)
Suppressor (Adds Quiet keyword to a ranged weapon, BK 1)
Chemical Light Sticks x5 (Lights an area, BK 1)

Ok, I think that will do.  It means I’m 2 points of bulk below the maximum and that gives me space to add extra gear if I need.

Step 7: Personal Details

This is the standard write a description, come up with a name & background etc.

I’m going to steal the name Ivan Danko from Red Heat, because it’s cool.  Background wise, Russian spec ops soldier, grew up in the shadow of nuclear war with the Americans, he loved his country but served the government out of fear for his family rather than belief in their cause.

Chosen for the Sleeper Programme due to his skills with a rifle and the fact he was considered expendable (due to his shaky politics).

6 Feet tall, dark shoulder length hair, dresses in military garb and smokes like a chimney.

Step 8: Codename

Everyone gets a codename, the book also lists the kind of codename used by each project.  For LAST LIGHT they advise:

“LAST LIGHT Codenames are similar to those given to kgb informers and double agents. They consisted of a single noun. Most such nouns were either animals such as Mongoose or Whale, or professions such as Ambassador or Gravedigger. Examples: Kodiak, Anaconda, Surgeon, Artisan.”

I’m going to choose the codename Owl for his camouflage ability.

Final Character:

Name: Ivan Danko
Codename: Owl

Origin Programme: LAST LIGHT

Power: Spatial Distortion (Grants ability to Chameleon self, Warp Space and create a Visual haze to hide the character).

Attributes

Athletics:     3
Physique:    2
Nerve:        3
Focus:        3
Shooting:    4

Specialisms

Stealth & Mobility from Athletics.
Spotting from Nerve.
Sniper Rifle from Shooting.

Secondary Stats

Melee Defence: 9
Resilience Defence: 8
Stealth Defence: 10
Willpower Defence: 9
Maximum Carry: 16
Maximum Wounds: 5

Gear

AI Arctic Warfare Sniper Rifle: Damage 2D12, Range 14/8/3, RF 0, JM 3, BK 8, Bipod (20), High Crit.
Glock 17 Handgun: Damage 2D6, Range 5/1/1, RF 1, JM 6, BK 1, 1H
Ballistic Vest: 3/3 Body Armour, BK 1.

Binoculars (+2 to relevant checks, BK 1)
Snap Gun Lock Pick (Automatically opens standard locks, BK 1)
Suppressor (Adds Quiet keyword to a ranged weapon, BK 1)
Chemical Light Sticks x5 (Lights an area, BK 1)

So, that’s the character done and ready to play.  That’s a very easy character gen system.

There are a number of other things in the book that I’m loving, specifically around the campaign and technologies.  The short version is in Campaigns you can build a base with facilities you can use (not unlike Conspiracy X) and you can research new technologies, following a tree of progression, very similar to the system in X-COM.  I might talk about these campaign elements in a later post.

This game looks really good and I am really looking forward to running it for my group & possibly at a convention.

One thought on “Sleeper RPG: Orphans of the Cold War

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s